Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Meyer Files #15: Blacksnake (1973)

After his escape from 20th Century Fox, Russ Meyer attempted a comeback with the slave revolt epic Blacksnake.

Whatever possessed him to think an action film about slavery would work nobody knows.

The plot is fairly well developed: It's 1835. Charles (David Warbeck), a young Englishman, arrives on the English colony of St Christopher, an island in the West Indies. He is here to find out what happened to his brother Jonathan (David Prowse), who disappeared after marrying the sadistic mistress of the island, Lady Susan (Anoushka Hempel).

The story is actually rather compelling -- it's just the presentation is all wrong. The violence  (including multiple whippings and a crucifixion) is quite graphic (although rather tame today), but when combined with Bill Loose's cartoonish, melodramatic score and Meyer's penchant for random comic buttons on scenes, it results in a completely tone deaf mess.

It does not help matters that New Zealand actors Warbeck and Hempel are miscast in the leads -- Warbeck flits between comic double-takes and vengeance-fuelled rage, with no space in between; while Hempel is far too light-weight and shrill, lacking the kind of gravitas Lady Susan would need to hold over her terrified slaves.

This movie is just all kinds of wrong, and Meyer found that out when it bombed on release.

With his career stalled and his recent marriage to Edy Williams already in its death throes, Meyer knew he needed to get back to what he did best. In so doing, he would create the last of his great villains, a man with a lantern jaw called Harry Sledge...

Russ Meyer will return with Supervixens!

For previous entries...

The Meyer Files #1: The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959)

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